Survey

Merry meet everyone,

I’ve been MIA, but I have a favor to ask.  One of my covenmates is doing a research project for school, and I ask that anyone who identifies with British Traditional Wicca or Dianic Wicca partake in this survey.  She is looking for both men and women, and anyone who identifies on the binary spectrum.

Thank you!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1y9cUNqWJ4tVZFFgUujln4Fj8sevRk2rbnHF6Ikd2acM/viewform

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Time Out

Merry Meet.

So I just wanted to throw up a quick post saying something along the lines of, “Gah I wish I hadn’t stopped writing I’ve had so many interesting things to blog about OMG I can’t wait to share it all with you!”…except I can’t remember even a tenth of the things that have come up in my noodle during the months of absence.

It’s been a tumultuous time.  I started that new job–amazing, btw–and three months into it I applied for and accepted a promotion as Director of Nursing.  I’m scarecited.  Excared?  You combine scared and excited how you see fit and let me know what you come up with.  Scared because I just came out of a job that made me feel incompetent, insignificant, and like I was a lunatic into one that I feel supported, appreciated, and like I’m actually making a difference in people’s lives–excited because, well, hi, promoted after three months is just exciting!

We’re trying very hard to plan for a trip to Salem in October, something I swore I’d never do (Witch city in witch season?  I’ve gone mad.).  I’m thinking it’s not going to happen, and back up plans will have to be made.  Nonetheless.  I really, really want to at least see the Nurse farm in Danvers as Rebecca and Francis Nurse are my 11th great grandparents (13 generations I think it works out to?), and I got to play her in The Crucible in high school.  It was an incredibly powerful production we put on, too.  My parents hugged me extra hard after they saw it, knowing our genealogy and my nefarious interests.  Look on their faces?  Worth it.

You know, that’s a thing.  I’ve been reading a lot about legitimacy in Wicca.  It’s a hot topic right now.  Well, it’s often a hot topic, but the conversation certainly waxes and wanes.  Short version: Practice your damn craft instead of worrying about how authentic it is.  Long version: People seem to predicate authenticity on things like initiation, having a Gardnerian lineage (i.e., Gardner is somewhere in your lineage even if you aren’t in a Gardnerian tradition), and antiquity.  Initiation doesn’t make you a witch–being a witch makes you a witch.  The whole Gardnerian issue is it’s own beast.  There are just people out there who are going to say you’re not a “real Wiccan” without Gardner in your up-line. The antiquity thing–since when has “it’s old” been a reason for something being real?  My Droid Turbo just came out this year, but I’m pretty sure it’s a legitimate smart phone (I really like it, btw).  It’s a logical fallacy.  Wicca as we practice it now is not, and has never been, an unbroken unchanged religious practice dating back thousands of years.  You may find certain things we do that date back thousands of years…you’ll more easily find some of those things in the hundreds, dozens, or several years ago categories.  At one point every religion was new, but that didn’t make it “not real.”  I personally feel that Wicca is an evolution of indigenous pagan belief and modern spiritualism blended with ceremonial magic–it doesn’t HAVE a starting point, but we can deduce an evolutionary point around the 1930’s to early 1950’s in England.

But people crave authenticity and justification.  I’m not going to say they don’t need it, but I want to see a change in the defining parameters.  How about something like this: does it have a positive impact on your life?  Are you practicing effective magic? Is it coherent and philosophically sound?  Or is it not sound, and that’s part of the Mystery?

One of my favorite things to tell people is that I may be full of shit and I’m OK with that.  I may completely, entirely wrong about my religion, my craft, my perspective of the world.  It’s OK to be wrong–and it’s also OK to take new information, new experience, and make intelligent decisions, even alterations, regarding one’s path based on that.  This is what draws me to Wicca in the first place–even traditions are organic.  My tradition is not the same as it was for my High Priest and Priestess, and when my coven hives under new leadership, it won’t be exactly the same for them, either.  It has to grow, change, adapt for the future.  My authenticity is not predicated on being right–it’s predicated on practicing my craft.

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Update

I realize I completely missed my “You’ve Been on WordPress One Year!” anniversary–oops.

New job.  Busy with stuff.  I just posted an article relating to some of the things I’ve been busy with: primarily discussing philosophy with a couple of coveners.  I am pleased that the one will be taking the First Degree in a few short weeks.  I am glad to see the chance for survival of my tradition.

Also, kitten!  Sylvana Catta’s cat had kittens about 10 weeks ago, and now one of the goobers is home with us.  I’m really glad I bought my curtains at Walmart.  We’ll leave it at that.  So.  Ridiculously.  Cute.

I’m not writing as much as I was–I’m trying to get a handle on mundane things.  There isn’t a lot of idle time for writing right now.  It’s good, though.  The only downside has been a lot of, “Ooh, I should blog about that!”…and, it hasn’t happened.  Lots of thinking and contemplating though.

I’m officiating a handfasting in a couple of weeks, too, which will be delightful.

And life is good.

Blessed be.

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Black and White Aren’t a Banking System

I’m not a fan of describing things in terms of black and white to begin with. I can’t say there’s a single example outside of a crayon box—and, well, even their wrappers are gray. Yin and yang is a pervasive symbol for a reason. I understand the use of black and white, though. By being able to describe the extreme ends of a spectrum, it’s easier to understand the elements that compromise the gray area and how they interact.

Lately one of my coveners has been running into a lot of…judgement, I guess. There has been a lot of conversation in our Facebook group (woo, witchcraft in the 21st century!) about Wicca being transphobic because our deities are heterosexual cisgendered beings. In addition, she has been reading posts giving people a lot of flak for being concerned about the historical witch hunts (does anyone else remember how en vogue it was to call them The Burning Times? Do we still try to make that the cultural normative term for the mass witch hysteria that gripped Europe and colonial America?). Those demonstrating such concern were called “fluffy.”

While I appreciate a balanced outlook and can be personally annoyed by the terminal sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn farts types, I find that the term “fluffy” is used as a term of intellectual abuse. Just because a person tends toward said unicorn farts doesn’t mean their thoughts are born of ignorance or revisionist history—or even if they are, sometimes these points are brought up in an effort to garner better information, or at least more information. But, annoyed with the fact that poor sources of information are usually the easiest and most commonly frequented by neophytes, and that it feels like we are constantly fighting the battle against misinformation, we tend to roll our eyes and slap a “fluffy” label on them and keep on rolling. Knowing the negative connotations and dismissive attitude of the term, it can shut down the curious mind and then growth all around is stunted. I get it—I know how difficult it is to constantly be patient and answer the same questions and unravel the same misinformation. But it’s important, and it’s part of teaching.

I really don’t want to get into the inanity of the argument of an entire religion being transphobic because its primary deities are hetero and cisgendered. That’s not why I brought this up.

What I’m interested in is what these two scenarios got me thinking about, which is this assumption that everything seems to exist on a set of scales. People seem to treat these issues as a matter of a closed system wherein if you are going to put apples in one scale, you must be taking them from the other. Clearly, being concerned about The Burning Times must only put one squarely in the fluffy category because obvs we must think every witch burned in Europe was a Wiccan priestess, it has nothing to do with the horror of the real men and women who are still punished for practicing witchcraft in certain parts of the world, or the McCarthyism of the 1950’s (there’s a whole play about it), or the fact that the label “witch” still isn’t safe no matter how hard we romanticize it. Or, you know, because our deities are cis heteros, we can only worship cis hetero deities and only revere cis hetero culture. The fact that my deities are God and Goddess and She gets pregnant every Beltane has nothing to do with what my religion feels about those who are queer or trans (or anything else). To have cisgendered deities DOES NOT detract from transgendered deities and in fact part of what we teach is to see the Goddess in the God and vice versa. This is not merely a scale with black and white and grayscale in between—it’s the whole electromagnetic spectrum, and taking from one end does not detract from the other.

This kind of reminds me a little, too, of a rally where Michelle Obama was chanting the phrase “Black Girls Rock.” The author of the article stated that because the FLOTUS was emphasizing black girls she was excluding, disempowering, and otherwise detracting the experience of white girls. I’m sorry, but no—just because the FLOTUS was emphasizing black girls, this is no way detracts from my value as a white woman. Again, you do not have to take apples out of my basket to put it into theirs, we can both have baskets filled with apples. We don’t exist in a vacuum. And for the record, black girls DO rock, and I’m proud to work with a group of some of the most rockin’ women I’ve ever known.

My difficulty in getting pregnant right now has NOTHING TO DO with the fertility of the women who I see for abortion services. They ask me if it’s hard to work where I do—and the answer is a vehement NO. I am there to serve their experiences, to keep them safe, see to their needs, and it has nothing to do with what my body is up to. They didn’t take apples out of my fertility basket for their own. That’s not how that works.

So when I say I worship a Mother Goddess and virile Horned God, or when I say I’m concerned about the historical impact of the Burning Times, or black girls rock, stop robbing my apples. I’m not taking them out of the transgendered deities/no actual witches were burned/white girls rock too baskets. There are apples for ALL of the baskets.

Plus, if you take them all, I can’t make pie, and we all know how good my apple pie is. (For the record, it’s really, REALLY good).

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Hair.

Hair.

This is a story about a religious experience with hair.

I never really thought of myself as attractive growing up. I was fat. Am fat. Whatever. I didn’t feel that my hair was especially anything, except long and thick. My skin was especially average, and I struggle with acne, even as an adult. Northern European descent = body hair, too, and as a woman, I was taught by society that it was gross. I’m simply grateful I never started shaving my forearms, my legs are annoying enough—and yeah yeah, women’s lib, don’t have to shave, yadda yadda, but I do like how it looks and feels. I may bitch about it from time to time, but truth is, I prefer shaving, and it has nothing to do with anyone else’s feelings about it. My husband has never once complained or voiced an opinion one way or another. He’s a good egg.

At any rate, I was a huge advocate from the time I can remember for “inner beauty”—that being smart and kind were far more important than lipstick. I still feel this way. I couldn’t care less how aesthetically pleasing someone is if they’re an asshole. As a prickly teenager I often associated aesthetics with assholery, and I didn’t worry about fashion, skin care/make-up, or hair.

I was dubbed, however, “the girl with the hair.” In truth, my hair has always been pretty magnificent. In high school it was past my waist, luscious, with beautiful natural blonde highlights and a wave to it that gave it volume and body. I didn’t have to do anything with it but brush it out, and it was glorious. Strangers would reach out to touch it. Seriously, my hair has been my one true vanity. I refused to do anything to it, afraid I would damage its natural beauty. I would get it trimmed up, but I went months between trims because I wanted length. I never colored it, aside from a one inch pink spot on the underside I put in during college when I was feeling a little rebellious (gods I’m such a square). My hair has always been natural. Always beautiful. I got lucky—I know a lot of women who spend their energy on hating their hair.

firstdegreehair

Above: Hair shot from my first degree ceremony.  I was 18.

At the end of high school I donated it. Chopped it off to the chin. I was lightheaded for days from the sudden weight loss. Not even exaggerating. It was a huge change for me, but it began a pattern that my husband and I refer to as the “ritualistic shearing of hair.” Every time something major has happened to alter the course of my life, I’ve “shorn” it. Not literally, I’ve not had it shorter than chin-length since I was six years old. But it gets the ol’ heave ho’, a symbol of the change in my life. I did it when I graduated from college, applied to graduate school, got a new job, and so forth. The exception was my wedding day as I wanted it as long as possible for that particular ceremony.

This time was different.

I have known I was starting this new job for a month. But my urge to “do something” with my hair has been kicking around in my brain for, oh, nearly a year. I don’t want to go into any details, but it was a year ago that I came out of orientation for my last job…and, well, I’m changing jobs, so that tells you something about how I felt for the last year. I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea the prior fall, and when I got treated for it, it was like a veil was lifted off of my eyes. I started making a lot of changes in my life, such as said last job, and I dropped out of graduate school. What I was doing wasn’t living my life, it was fulfilling a set of expectations I thought I wanted. I didn’t.

This past year has been eye opening. It has taught me so much about myself, and it has taught me that I have real health problems. The sleep apnea was no joke, and it was a mistake to take my last job. I rotated day-nights, four weeks of each at a time. When you have a sleep disorder, night shift is not a good idea. It made me unstable. I was so moody my husband almost started smoking—he was using e-cigs. I was a lung transplant nurse—it horrified me that he was turning to nicotine to cope. I couldn’t justify doing that to my husband, to our marriage. I had to make a change.

And that’s not all. I thought I’d be happier as a labor and delivery nurse, and for the most part, I was. It didn’t take the emotional toll on me professionally, the work was hard but not as back breaking. But I was still exhausted—my days off were spent recovering, not living. Furthermore, I could never stay switched onto a night shift schedule. The more I fought it, the worse I was. This translated into several days where I was awake for over 24 hours at a stretch, which takes its toll on the body. Instead of having time and energy to work out, which I didn’t have, my body was now having a constant stress response to cycles of non-sleep—which means greater levels of cortisol and insulin resistance, which leads to fat deposition and fatigue. If I had worked out maybe I wouldn’t have gained 30 lbs in the last year, but I doubt I would’ve lost any weight either, which I need to do to help with, you know, the sleep apnea and insulin resistance I already have.

debicky

Above: Me in January, getting ready to meet with a prospective student.

I was so focused on having what I thought was my dream job, I didn’t realize at first that it was destroying me just as surely as what I had been doing. I was prioritizing the fantasy of being an L&D nurse over the reality of my life. Thankfully my husband was supportive and very insightful about what was going on, and he encouraged me to make a change (as did other members of my family).

So what does this have to do with hair?

These realizations about my ill health, physical and mental, have come since I turned 30. I don’t feel strongly one way or another about turning 30—age is just a number, right? But there is a reality that comes to the fact that I AM 30, I am getting older. For the first time in my life, my menstrual cycle is irregular. My skin isn’t as smooth as it used to be (even despite the acne). I don’t have to shave as often, which is actually kind of a blessing. My gallbladder died. My hair has this weird new texture to it—it’s thicker, coarser. I have a few greys, but that, again, never bothered me. The color has lost some of its luster, though, and it looks really…boring…when I put it up.

Today I did something about it. Understand, I’m hair stupid. All I’ve done with it is cut it off or grow it. I’ve had it styled all of three times in my life—not even for my own prom. So I went to a salon where they do free consultations, and I tried to convey to my stylist what it was that I needed. She showed me a few pictures, threw out a few ideas—and got to work.

Four hours and a hundred bucks later, and when I got in the car, I almost broke down in tears. First of all, my stylist did a FABULOUS job. She somehow took my, “I don’t know, I like my color, but it’s…lost something, and I need a shape. I don’t know what kind of shape,” and turned it into something verifiably amazing. The deluge of compliments on Facebook is a testament.

And it wasn’t huge. She threw in some soft color (balayage? I think is the term?), washed it, layered it, and gave me one hell of a blow dry. No base color. She took off a few inches, but she didn’t hack it all off. It’s like a facial with a little lip gloss and eyeliner, but for hair. A haircial?

But it hit me when I sat in the car that by doing this, by breaking down my barriers with my beloved hair and doing something positive for it, I was symbolically encapsulating the pain of the last year and telling it, “No. You can’t have me. I will fight for myself. I will take care of myself. I will right what has gone wrong.” By doing something that made me feel good, that made me feel more confident, that uncovered something I didn’t know about myself, I was taking steps to be ME. A dynamic, changing, kind person, who has the right to choose to feel beautiful not only about what’s inside, but what’s outside as well. One does not have to detract from the other. There has to be balance, but that doesn’t mean that compassion and service unto others means I can’t be compassionate toward myself.

All this from a hair cut.

Below: After getting home from the salon today.

debpretty

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Beltane

What 30 year old childless married woman doesn’t love a holiday that’s all about sex?

It amazes me men aren’t more attracted to Wicca for Beltane alone.  Yeah, it’s a sexist statement, whatcha gonna do about it?

Who doesn’t love dancing around a giant pole stuck in the Earth with white and red ribbons getting wrapped around it?

You and me babe we ain’t nothin’ but mammals…

Beltane.  Beltane is the embodiment of Pagan freedom.  It is a celebration of the union of the Lord and Lady, the commingling of life giving juices.  It is the ultimate act of creation, two becoming as one, a wholeness that cannot be overstated.  From it the fields are sown with new life, a new holy babe is conceived.  It is the Great Marriage.  Their joy and their love is consummated–oh what a great time for celebration!

So let’s talk about sex.

My mother raised me to respect sex.  She never gave me hogwash about waiting until I was married–who buys a car without test driving it first?   A spouse is more than a car, but that’s just exactly it–if you want to be able to fully respect their wishes and needs as a sexual creature, the only way to figure that out is through experience.  In the days of paternity tests maintaining virginity in the name of patriarchal inheritance laws is a touch outmoded.  There are other reasons people wait, and they are entitled to their beliefs regarding this, but it doesn’t change my personal stance.  I know of more than one relationship that ended because the two people were sexually incompatible–one ended in divorce, and the other saved the couple from entering an unhappy abusive marriage (rape is still rape even if you’re in a committed relationship, you don’t get implied consent just because you said yes once).

You know what.  Let’s take that out of parentheses. This is too important to make it any kind of a foot note.

Every single time you engage in a sex act, you have the right to give consent. No matter how many times you have had sex with someone, no matter how far along you are in getting’ jiggy wit’ it, you have the right to say no. I’m not going to say that someone isn’t going to call you a tease or a bitch if you call it quits when his glans is knocking at your vulva—I get it, blue balls suck. But better a case of blue balls—or Jergens lotion and Kleenex in the bathroom—than a prison sentence.

Rape is more than just a violent sexual encounter without consent. It is also considered rape to coerce someone into having sex—this includes using guilt. “Come on baby it’s been three weeks” is not enough reason to have intercourse. If you whine and beg and she “gives in,” do you really feel like she gave you consent? “Yes” is not enough—though frequently it’s treated that way in a court of law. The exception is if the victim is drugged or drunk at the time consent was given, though, again, frequently there is little sympathy for a woman who would use drugs or alcohol. Even in the case of “roofies” they are blamed for putting themselves in a situation to have been given a drug. It’s ugly. I wish it weren’t true. At any rate, both partners need to be able to consent freely to engage in the sexual act with no strings attached. So, ladies, if your guy buys you dinner, you don’t “owe” him sex!

Most rapes are committed against women by men. This doesn’t mean men aren’t raped. Getting an erection is a physiological process and not implied consent. A woman may even have an orgasm when raped—this still does not imply consent. We are not ruled by our biology, it does not make our choices for us. There are other ways to rape a man—sodomy being right up there. Yes, it’s rape even if it isn’t vaginal intercourse. Forced to give a blowjob? Still rape. Used a marital aid (read: dildo)? Still rape.

What’s the moral of the story?

Don’t rape. Men, women, purple, polka-dotted, inside-out, I don’t care—if you’re going to engage in sex, get consent.

So it’s Beltane. You’re in the circle with your favorite personal lord or lady. You are looking forward to blessing those fields, boy howdy. As the Bard put it once, you guys are going to go out there and make the beast with two backs.

Oh, but you aren’t in a committed monogamous relationship and you aren’t ready for children?

Let’s make that the beast with three backs, and one of them is made of latex. If you’re allergic to latex, use lambskin, but for the love of all the gods, WRAP IT BEFORE YOU TAP IT. A guy at our local store for lovers even said to use one on your marital aids (read: dildos) because it helps to protect said aids from breaking down and growing bacteria from our bodily fluids. Even if you clean them like you should after every use, the surface can get worn down and “things” can find microscopic little homes. It’ll last longer and stay cleaner.

Oh I know. Condoms suck, too. Everyone who rolls their eyes at you when you complain about condoms gets it—flesh on flesh feels better, and the people out there who are lying to you that it’s not any different are spewing BS for a reason: “I don’t like the way it feels” is not a reason to not use a condom. Ever. “I want to have a baby” is a great reason, or, “I’m in a committed monogamous relationship and trust my partner, and neither of us have any sexually transmitted diseases,” is another. Those are the only two I can think of, and I work in the business of making babies. Er. Well. Birthing babies. Seven inches goes in…seven pounds comes out…

Anyway.

It doesn’t stop at condoms though boys and girls. Latex condoms are the single best way to help prevent disease transmission when engaging in intercourse. The best way of all is, of course, not to have sex—but we’ve already established we aren’t prudes. So what else can you do? How about you get regularly tested at your local reproductive health center (or, you know, your doctor), and you also make sure your partner has a clean bill of health before making said beast? Forewarned is four-armed…get it? Because two people having sex means there’s…four…arms…OK, bad joke, moving on.

It doesn’t stop there. No sir! Why?

Condoms aren’t perfect at preventing pregnancy. I like to use the swiss cheese model. We use it in nursing to explain why there are so many double-and-triple checks for high risk medication administration. For a blood transfusion, for example, a sample of a patient’s blood is sent for blood typing to the lab. Lab releases the results to the blood bank. Blood bank cross matches the patient’s blood type with the units of blood to be released. Two nurses verify the orders, the patient’s identity, the blood type according to the lab and the labeled units of blood, and they both sign off on it before the bag is even spiked. Each step (lab, blood bank, nursing) is a slice of swiss cheese—and all the different precautions at each step are designed to help ensure the right blood is given and no mistakes are made. The stopgap measures of blood bank covers the hole in the cheese that represents the lab, and just in case the hole in the blood bank cheese doesn’t block the lab hole all the way, the nursing cheese should cover the remaining hole. Should. I can attest from personal experience that sometimes, though, all those holes line up perfectly—and the wrong products reach the patient. This isn’t always a harmful thing—in my case I accidentally gave platelets instead of FFP, but to this day I have no clue why the hell platelets were even in the room to begin with as they were never ordered. No harm at all came to the patient.  Hard lessons learned.

The same is true of sex. Condoms, if used correctly, are good about 97% of the time in preventing pregnancy—and I’m being very, very generous here. There is data to support otherwise, but we’ll go with conventional knowledge here. So you have a swiss cheese hole of 3%–some little homunculi might get past the barrier, and if they reach an egg, it’s game over.

What to do?

Stack as many slices of swiss cheese on each other as possible! Five condoms!

NO, NO, STOP!! Do not wear five condoms at once. It’s only 97% if you use condoms CORRECTLY—which means wearing only one. ONE CONDOM. And change condoms after every ejaculation, every round of intercourse, between partners (hey, I’m not judging), and any time you think the one you are wearing has been compromised in any way. They break, it happens. Go to the pharmacy and get Plan B—it’s over the counter in Ohio. Go.

What I mean is to use different kinds of birth control. If it’s safe for you to be on the pill, take the pill. Get an IUD if you aren’t planning to have children in the next 3-5 years. Get Depo (talk to your doc about Depo, it depletes your body’s calcium over time so it’s not a long term solution). Use spermicide (DIE HOMUNCULI DIE!!), but only if it won’t damage your condom. Lots of condoms come with spermicidal lube—which is great, because even if your partner makes lots of natural lube, lube-free sex can still make micro-tears that hurt or at risk for infection, so you can get the spermicidal benefit and have more comfortable sex with a spermicidal lubed condom!

This is especially important if you used lambskin instead of latex. Lambskin is way, WAY more porous—and it’s not going to have the same level of protection for pregnancy or STDs. Make sure you both have clean slates or a plan of how to work around any STDs (Herpes happens—but that doesn’t mean you can’t work around it, listen to the Valtrex commercials, go see your doctor, and do whatever you can to not spread it to your partner). Definitely use more than one kind of birth control. Unless you’re in a relationship where pregnancy isn’t a concern—there are lots of types of couples (homosexual, post-hysterectomy, vasectomy, etc.) for whom pregnancy isn’t a concern so I wouldn’t worry about pregnancy prevention, but definitely take precautions against STDs—nobody wants VD on V-Day!…I swear, I’m done with the bad jokes.

So this Beltane, grab your sugar lump and bump some uglies. Make some thrice-blessed babies, or just get your freak on! But whatever you do, do it safely, and do it with consent.

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Control

It used to bother me when I would read detracting articles about Wicca wherein the authors asserted that people were drawn to Wicca because it gave them the “illusion of control.” I didn’t care for the implication that Wicca was an illusion itself or that its principles and tenets were teaching lies.

As it happens, though, according to many* people, it does teach lies.  We can cry out against this and beat our fists on the ground and cry out that, no, THEY* have taught the lies, or that they* are too close-minded to allow for the possibility that there are other, equally valid truths.  There is no way of saying whether or not it is an illusion—that is a matter of philosophical perspective, though some things will have reliable outcomes based on the laws of physics.

*I’m not going to call out any one group, but rather the fact that there are many diverse groups who feel this way, and they are in the majority in our society.

I read a comment on a blog this morning that reminds me of just how difficult it can be to communicate concepts to each other that may seem simple on the surface.  This comment was in regards in the fluidity of language.  The commenter asserted that to consider language as fluid is born out of ignorance from people who are unwilling to cultivate a clear, distinctive vocabulary with concise definitions for all words.  If that were in any way true of our language, we would have no poetry.  There would be no misunderstandings.  And I’m not sure such a “solid” language would be better–the fluidity of language allows for nuance of expression, the creation of new words, and to allow words to grow and change with the culture.  “An” in middle English is very different from “an” now–and that’s just a two letter word.  One could argue that middle English is a different language, and perhaps it is, but modern English still grew out of it, and it was not until the publishing of Webster’s dictionary a mere 200ish years ago that we have even attempted any kind of standardization of, oh, you know, spelling.  And spelling now changes a word’s meaning greatly (love homophones).  Accepting language as fluid is not laziness or ignorance–it’s wisdom.  Together we decide what words mean–alone, they are meaningless.

So it’s difficult to convey to people who don’t think like you, don’t have the same vocabulary as you, exactly what you mean. As my brother and I often like to joke, “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.” He had taken a philosophy class that talked about how it is that we define the essence of what a thing is, and one of the German philosopher he studied taught it thus (I have no idea who that philosopher was anymore): “What is a chair? It is something that chairs.” “What is a tree? Something that trees.” What is an Ariawn? Something that Ariawns. I like my name as a verb, it has a ring to it. I’m Ariawning right now, come to think of it. Does that really tell you what a chair is? A tree? Who I am? Well, yes and no.

I like to ask my cat what she’s doing. I pretend she answers me with, “Cat stuff.”

I think they* are victims of their own language when they try to denigrate Wicca by calling it an illusion of control. I’d like to postulate that they operate in the illusion of having given up control. They are not automatons, and they certainly are not immune to the consequences of their actions. We all still have to think, to choose, and then to act. Even if it is argued that the decision came from a higher power, we were granted free will and have to choose to listen to that higher power over and over again. There is no automatic programming that comes from saying, “I give my life to (insert godform here).” Control isn’t gone, it’s surrendered over and over. Choices are informed by faith, and it is trusted that in the end the result will be for the greater good and everything will be OK. This isn’t giving up control—it’s giving up the need for foresight.

What’s so wrong with a religion that grants us the illusion of control, anyway? Religions are ways of structuring our lives—they provide a framework of meaning and purpose, which sounds an awful lot like an illusion of control. This is true of all religions. Wicca is different in that it does not merely teach personal power, which is antithetical to certain ideologies, but also personal responsibility. It does not teach that we can always reliably choose the outcomes of our choices, but it does teach us how to think, analyze, and utilize knowledge to perceive patterns, patterns that can allow us to understand the further reaching consequences of our choices—and, yes, to choose in ways that are likely to have the outcome we seek. Sometimes we analyze wrong (ever had a bad Tarot card reading?), and this is where wisdom comes into play—for we are constantly learning. In the end, no matter what the outcome was, we always remember that we are responsible, for good or ill. This inspires us to act in the face of justice, and to set aright situations in which we have wronged. We are motivated to do more, be more. What the illusion of control and personal power teaches us in Wicca is not that we are in charge but rather that we are part of this world and what we do, or don’t do, has consequences that affect more than ourselves—we affect our families, our friends, our communities, the very Earth. And we need to be conscientious stewards.

Both ways—having control and giving it up—are valid, powerful ways of engaging the world. Neither is more right than the other. Some people need to “give up” control and trust in something greater than themselves to find the courage to act, to do great deeds. Others need to seize control and to believe that their thoughts, their choices matter—and that they can do great deeds. This is part of that beautiful tapestry of our humanity. Rather than viewing these “illusions” as lies, I’d rather view them as tools. Illusion for me now has a new connotation that goes behind its denotation as “not real.” It may, or may not, be real—but it is powerful in its own right.

Oh look. There’s that language, acting like a fluid again.

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